Fiddle About | Arts & Entertainment | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
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Culture » Arts & Entertainment

Fiddle About

Bronwen Beecher and the Salty Frogs put the “stank” on the Celt.



The violin is one of the hardest stringed instruments to play in a rock or pop band without looking like a cheesy douche bag,” says Salty Frogs frontwoman and fiddler-about-town Bronwen Beecher. “It can be so bad'there’s much potential for douchebaggery.”


Yes, from ’70s progressive-pompers like Kansas to current-day annoyances like that guy in Shania Twain’s band, the cheese rating of a fiddle in the context of a rock/pop show has historically been pure Velveeta. A violin under the chin carries slightly more rock cred than a keyboard strapped around the neck like a guitar (no one does that anymore … right?), but it’s a sliding scale.


That is, until you witness someone like Beecher in action'particularly when she’s leading her band, the Salty Frogs, through a sweat-flinging set of electrified Celtic stomps that rocks harder than most so-called “rock” bands could even dream of. Beecher bows with enough unbridled passion and studied finesse to rival any guitar hero; she’s half-jokingly nicknamed herself “the Fiddle Preacher.” And Beecher’s aspirations don’t stop at making her instrument rock, either'would you believe, fiddle funk?


“The fiddle can be funky, percussive,” she says. “I don’t play in any funk bands, but in the Frogs with Lisa Marie playing bass [the band also includes guitarist Derek Wright and drummer Mike Sorich], there’s going to be some funk. I’m working on the style: Super-simple, super-repetitive, super-stanky. The ‘stank’ is where you put the beat, so I watch percussionists to get that [simulates beat]. As you may have noticed, I’m white, so rhythm isn’t natural for me. [Laughs] I studied classical music growing up, so I got the tick-tock rhythm'don’t move your hips or tap your feet, for god’s sake!


“One of my favorites is that Dave Matthews Band standard, ‘Ants Marching.’ What I love about it is that the fiddle is so integral, a real part of a rock & roll band'as opposed to just dribbling all over from beginning to end.” [Rolls eyes]


Thanks to fiddle-featuring groups like the DMB and others, Beecher believes popular music just might be at the dawning of a new age of violin acceptance'but it’s still a slow process.


“What’s that band on MTV who sing the annoying song? I know that’s all of them; doesn’t narrow it down at all,” she says, thinking out loud. “Yellowcard? God bless that fiddle player, but he’s out of the frame for most of the video'there’s just this bow coming in from the side. He’s good, though. We’re kind of reinventing the wheel. We don’t really have mainstream influences to go by, so we have to make it up as we go. Exciting stuff is happening as a result of that.nn

While the new is exciting, Beecher’s heart still belongs to old, old school music.


“The stuff that sounds really cool on the fiddle, that I like to play, are these ancient, traditional Celtic gypsy tunes'and then just rock ’em out. There’s an attachment to that ancient music, and it’s become a passion for me. When I’m playing, it stirs my blood more than anybody else’s. And everybody loves the Celtic stuff; it’s pretty universal.nn

To which she adds, with a mischievous smile: “We can probably thank and blame Riverdance. Thank them politely, and then shoot them all.nn

Since the Salty Frogs are a part of kicking off Pride Week, Beecher plans on opening the band’s Mo Diggity’s show with a Hendrix-esque fiddle take on “The Star-Spangled Banner,” replete with distortion and feedback (“I don’t know if it’ll be goofy or brilliant”). But, there’s one song that no fiddle-fronted band can hope to dodge requests for: that Charlie Daniels Band classic, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.nn

“I finally broke down and learned that song with the band'even if people don’t think they want to hear it, they want to hear it,” Beecher laughs. “It’s the fiddle ‘Freebird.’ If someone’s leaving the show early, I just have to say we’re about to play ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia,’ and they’re stayin’!”



Mo Diggity’s

3424 S. State

Friday, June 10

Pride Day

Library Square

Sunday, June 12


668 S. State

Wednesday, June 15